By Rick Atkinson

For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

On a night when Melissa’s Lady Cardinals were missing several players due to injury or illness, the team marched on to a 6-0 non-district win over Class 4A Farmersville.

Melissa Head Coach Manuel Avila called on five JV players to help fill the ranks for this Jan. 7 match at Cardinal Stadium, including Madison Marks, Callan Cornell, Haley Ellis and Emily Hale.

Taylor Davies was also moved up but an injury kept her out, Avila noted.

“They did a great job for us,” he said. “All contributed. All got good minutes working in the system. … I gave the starters their just due by starting them. About 10 minutes in, I started pulling girls off. We’d already scored a couple of goals and I really wanted to make sure that those non-starters and the JV girls got the opportunity to participate and really work in the system.”

Melissa (3-1-1) recorded 23 shots on-goal - with eight corner kicks - while the Lady Farmers put one shot on-goal.

With starting Lady Cards goalkeeper Anna Blankenship out due to illness, Abbey Maldonado worked in-goal most all the way, collecting the lone save early on.

“It was a good match for her to get in,” Avila said. “She got a couple of touches on the ball early which I think probably calmed the nerves a little bit.”

Freshman JV keeper Katie Waite also got in some valuable minutes late in the contest.

“I was pleased with the performance all the way around,” Avila said. “I thought we moved the ball well, we communicated well. … I told the girls in the locker room before we started that it was going to be a difficult game for us. Both teams - JV and varsity - had four tough [Liberty Hill-tourney] games on their legs. They’re coming off not even 48-hours’ rest.”

Avila added that he told the Lady Cards, “We don’t have enough gas in the tank to get through 80 minutes if we’re not playing smart.”

Melissa led 2-0 15 minutes into the match on goals by Payton Wallace and Jenna Newkirk, a defender who took the ball all the way home from her backside position.

“She likes to do things like that,” Avila said of Newkirk’s score. “It was a really good opportunity. … But a lot of that goes into the confidence she has with her defenders. If she loses possession of the ball, she’s got to be able to rely on those other three girls.”

Defending with Newkirk much of the night were veterans Jenna Daniel and Cali Tenney, as well as sophomore Madeline Kuehler, in for injured Briley Bowen.

With 22:19 left in the first period, Kylie Kroese booted home a goal from the right side after a crossing pass from Cornell.

With six minutes to go before the break, Kroese booted her second goal, a left-to-right shot that put the Lady Cards up, 4-0. Four minutes later, Daniel sent the lead to 5-0 with a mid-range straight-on kick.

Melissa’s final goal came with 10:40 left in the second period, a straight-on effort by Cornell.

Besides Bowen, starting forwards Hanna Waters and Lucy Hurst were also sitting out with minor injuries.

“All of them are going to be OK, hopefully, for the weekend,” Avila said. “It was really more discretionary, trying to keep them fit for another big tournament coming up [at Denison].”